After what seems like an eternity, European players will finally get the chance to play Fire Emblem Fates this week. Intelligent Systems' latest turn-based tactical triumph launched in North America back in February, and we awarded it a glowing 9 out of 10 in our review. However, there's a good chance that many European fans have intentionally steered clear of US coverage to keep themselves fresh for this week's release, so we decided to put together this handy guide which briefly sums up exactly what's different this time around, and why Fire Emblem Fates should be at the top of your 3DS shopping list.

It's Three Stories Instead Of One

Fire Emblem Fates isn't one game, but three. At retail you'll be able to buy Birthright and Conquest, which - up until chapter 6 - are the same game, but after that point you have to choose which side you're doing to fight for, the noble Hoshido or the sinister Nohr. To complicate matters, Nohr is your adopted homeland - you were kidnapped as a child - and you therefore have strong bonds with your adopted siblings. Should you decide that blood isn't thicker than water, you can pick up Conquest which allows you to remain with Nohr but attempt to destroy the evil that lurks within the Empire. The third story arc is Revelation, and that isn't going to be available until June 9th in Europe. This DLC campaign sees you going solo, eventually recuiting characters from both factions.

The Weapon Triangle Is Easier To Understand

Swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and lances beat swords. Anyone who has played a Fire Emblem game understands that triangle, but it has been made even easier to grasp by using a colour-coding system. However, at the same time, a second set of weapon types is included in the triangle. Swords are joined by magic when it comes to beating axes and bows, while axes and bows are better than lances and hidden weapons (such as throwing stars).

Permadeath Ain't What It Used To Be

When people think Fire Emblem, they almost indistinctly think "permadeath". This harsh feature has been a trademark of the franchise for years, and has previously forced players to consider each move very carefully indeed. Losing a character doesn't just result in them retreating from the battlefield to lick their wounds - they're gone forever, along with all the experience and progress made up to that point. Fire Emblem: Awakening introduced a mode where defeat didn't mean death, and Fates continues this trend, adding a third option by the name of "Phoenix" which resurrects fallen characters at the start of the next turn. While purists will ignore such a feature, it's good that casual players and newcomers have the option to gently ease themselves into the world of Fire Emblem.

Weapons Don't Wear Out Over Time

Remember in previous Fire Emblem games when weapons broke in the middle of a heated skirmish, leaving units defenseless? That isn't the case in Fates, as weapons no longer degrade over time. The exception is healing rods, which have a limited number of uses but can be restocked in between missions. This change is a welcome one, as it removes the need to constantly check your troops have spare weapons in their inventories.

Dragon Veins Can Turn The Tide Of Battle

Dragon Veins are special tiles on the battlefield which cause special events when triggered by the protagonist. These events range from merely opening up a new route through the stage to damaging units via traps or even freezing an entire body of water to make it safe to cross. Some are optional while others must be triggered in order to complete the mission. Deciding which is which is all part of the challenge - some veins are placed out of the way, and require you to deviate from your path in order to reach them. Is it worth the risk? You'll have to decide.

Fire Emblem Fates launches in Europe this week.